See also Oahu Resorts, including Aulani, Disney's Hawaii Resort.
1. Walk Waikiki
It's free, and one of the best things to do on Oahu. The legendary Waikiki Beach has been beautified: not only can visitors enjoy its lovely sand and surf, they can also stroll along its wide flagstone sidewalk, past fountains, rock pools, statues, and surfboard-signs that offer bits of history. Perhaps you'll visit when free movies are shown on the beach. (Take a photo tour of Waikiki Beach.)
2. Boat Trips
Another way to get out on the water-- and also under it-- is via an Atlantis Adventures submarine experience (see below).
At Waikiki beach, guests start their Atlantis voyage at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort. A short boat ride -- with nice views of Waikiki and Diamond Head -- ferries passengers to the submarine. Guests board, take a seat (everyone gets his or her own port-hole), and the captain begins the descent, typically with humorous commentary. On our trip, we were amused to see sea-turtles being "cleaned" by fish!
Wild Side Specialty Tours are the best kind of nature-tour operators, with an ethical respect for marine animals in their natural habitat. No wildlife outing can guarantee sightings, but on a trip in December we were lucky enough to see gray whales, and to swim with spinner dolphins and sea turtles. Other types of outings are available too.
Visitors to Hawaii should know that there are many issues around swimming with dolphins. Swimming with wild dolphins could be a peak experience of a Hawaii trip, but be SURE to choose a dolphin outing responsibly.
5. Everybody's Gone Surfing...
Surfing originated as the sport of ancient Hawaiian royalty. Kids as young as eight can try: you can find lessons right on Waikiki Beach, where the surf is good for beginners-- surely one of the world's most convenient places to try this sport. Or call the Hans Hedemann Surf School for other locations. In winter: watch pros compete on giant surf on Oahu's north shore.
6. Pearl Harbor
7. Polynesian Cultural Center
Visit seven Polynesian Islands in one afternoon. The Polynesian Cultural Center -- on the north side of Oahu-- is a beautiful place to spend a day, and each island-zone has activities that kids will enjoy. At Tonga, a hilarious stand-up comic routine included real-life making fire and coconut milk. Other "islands" featured drumming, Tahitian dances, tattoos, games, poi balls.
Evening brings a lavish luau buffet, and later on a Night Show with plenty of pizazz.
8. Do a Luau
Based on a tradition of Hawaiian feasts, the Luau has evolved into a rite of passage for tourists. Expect a splashy show, and a huge buffet (quality various.) The Polynesian Cultural Center, (below), does an excellent Luau that's under a high roof-- no rain worries. No liquor is served at the PCC; whereas at the other Luau we sampled --the Paradise Cove Luau-- drinking jokes started on the bus-ride. Kids enjoyed fun activities at this luau (stick-throwing games, tattoos, crafts, canoe ride). Visitors have several choices for luaus, so shop around and choose what's best for you. The Hilton Hawaiian Village (on Waikiki Beach) has a luau on-property.
Two passengers at a time squeeze into a sporty little glider, which is then roped to a plane and towed into the air, until the point when the rope gets dropped and-- you're soaring, no engine noise, just a beautiful ride. A 20-minute flight reaches altitudes of 3000 feet. Check out Honolulu Soaring, at the link above, on Oahu's North Shore, with beautiful vistas below your glider ride.
The Hanauma Bay Nature Park is actually a State Underwater Park, and is known as a popular snorkeling spot.